PHIL B.'S PREDICTION: COLTS 27, REDSKINS 24
This NFL season has become so unpredictable, it seems impossible to guess about which way this game will go. Washington has been a tough out at home, all three nailbiters, blowing a 17-point lead against Houston in the one FedEx Field game lost. The Colts have been less than stellar on the road, losing at Houston and at Jacksonville. If they have one thing in common, both the Redskins and Colts are coming off gritty wins at home. Washington edged Green Bay 16-13 in OT. The Colts knocked off Kansas City 19-9 to give the NFLís last unbeaten team its first loss.
So why pick the Colts? Because we keep expecting this team to show the form it has continually displayed in past 12-win seasons. Because the game is in prime time and Colts QB Peyton Manning tends to shine in these moments. And because the Redskins have trouble protecting the passer, they donít blow teams away with an unstoppable offense and the Colts seem to match up well with this team. Think about it. The Colts have just two sacks in three games, one of those on a fumbled snap. Yet here are the Redskins, who have allowed 11 sacks. Sounds like an opportunity for Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis to feast. Then thereís Manning, who for the first time this season didnít throw for 300 yards or have a TD pass. Yeah, like thatís going to happen two games in a row.
Still, always mindful there are two sides to a coin, the Redskins could win because QB Donovan McNabb has proven, once again, football is a team game. Itís about making clutch plays at the most important times. Itís about a leader managing the ebbs and flows. McNabbís numbers arenít that impressive. He tends to lock in on a couple guys in the passing game. But he makes it work. All that said, nobody manages a game better than Manning. And while the Colts have issues Ė still not sold all the defensive problems are fixed because the guys played well at home twice Ė Manning will remind a national television audience of his greatness. Thatís enough.
COLTS' RUN OFFENSE VS. REDSKINS' RUN DEFENSE
The Colts have been without backup RB Donald Brown for two weeks. Now leading rusher Joseph Addai has a shoulder/neck injury. Even if the Colts need to bring in someone new, past results suggest the Colts typically donít run for much. Theyíre averaging 3.2 yards per carry. Not that the Redskins have been great at stopping it. Theyíre allowing 4.5 yards per carry. So itís almost a push. Almost. EDGE: REDSKINS.
COLTS' PASS OFFENSE VS. REDSKINS' PASS DEFENSE
No NFL quarterback has attempted more passes in five games than the Coltsí Peyton Manning at 216. But Kansas City had him guessing with a 2-3-6 alignment, sure to be copied by others after Manning failed to pass for 300 yards or a TD. The Redskins have a decent pass rush with 12 sacks, four by Brian Orakpo, but are allowing 298 yards passing per game. Colts WR Reggie Wayne leads the NFL with 39 catches. EDGE: COLTS.
REDSKINS' RUN OFFENSE VS. COLTS' RUN DEFENSE
Clinton Portis is out with a groin injury, so the Redskins have been handing off to second-year RB Ryan Torain, who is averaging 3.8 yards per carry. The Redskins average 3.9 yards as a team. The Colts are among the NFLís worst at stopping the run at 142.2 yards allowed per game. Teams look to overpower smaller Colts defenders. EDGE: REDSKINS.
REDSKINS' PASS OFFENSE VS. COLTS' PASS DEFENSE
Donovan McNabb always seems give his team a chance, although his 56.5 completion percentage isnít gaudy, heís been sacked 11 times and has thrown three interceptions. Yet the Redskins win because, like their leader, they make clutch plays. The Colts have been inconsistent in pass coverage and generating a pass rush. They have just two sacks in three games. This could be a key to the gameís outcome. EDGE: EVEN.
The Colts continue to be steady with field goals, punts and kicking off. P Pat McAfee has 11 kickoff touchbacks, which ties for the league lead. PK Adam Vinatieri has made all eight of his FG attempts. Redskins PK Graham Gano has made a clutch kick to win a game (Green Bay) and missed another that ended up costing his team an OT game (Houston). Redskins have a modest edge in return yards. EDGE: EVEN.
Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, winner of two Super Bowl rings while with Denver, is owner Dan Snyderís latest expensive investment. Shanahan acquired a mobile quarterback in Donovan McNabb and stood up to disgruntled holdout DT Albert Haynesworth. The coach has restored some order. Colts coach Jim Caldwellís team has been hit by injuries, but fans have been quick to criticize him in losses. EDGE: REDSKINS.